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Chamber of Commerce exits Covered Bridge Celebration, Downtown Christmas Parade

John Thompson • Nov 14, 2019 at 8:45 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The normally joyous lighting of the community Christmas tree and the happiness of the downtown Christmas parade might be a bit more somber in Elizabethton this year.

That’s because because it will be the last time the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce will be in charge of the events.

The Chamber is also planning to hand the Covered Bridge Celebration to another group to organize next year.

David LeVeau, president of the Chamber, said the decision to transition out of leading these events was not a sudden one, and came about after much discussion by the Chamber’s board of directors.

The decision was reached after the leaders of the Chamber went through a strategic planing workshop facilitated by an official with the Williamson County Chamber in Franklin. Some of the focus was on feedback from Chamber members.

There was concern on the board on whether the Chamber was fully meeting the needs of its business members. LeVeau said the Chamber should be focused on assisting business, economic development, education and tourism.

“We are not a festival promotion organization,” LeVeau said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Carter County Tomorrow, where the question of the Chamber’s future plans was brought up.

LeVeau said the Chamber has only two-and-a-half employees and in the days and weeks leading up to the Covered Bridge Celebration, the employees are devoting all of their time to making sure the festival is successful. That’s true on a lesser extent on the Christmas Parade and the tree lighting.

LeVeau told the Carter County Tomorrow board that this was a period of transition from the Chamber to the next leaders of the three events.

Tonya Stevens, director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the transition for the Covered Bridge Celebration should be made soon. She said vendors and entertainment needed to be settled at this time of year, months before the event.

“If someone thinks they can start working on the Covered Bridge Celebration in the spring, they will be lost,” Stevens said.

Elizabethton Mayor Pro Tem Bill Carter told LeVeau during the Carter County Tomorrow meeting that he considers several local events to be “signature” events for communities within the region. He considers the Covered Bridge Celebration to be Elizabethton’s signature event.

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